San Juan del Sur Bay, Nicaragua
Nicaragua may be a little unknown as a holiday destination but at this time of year is bathing in sunshine and you could be too on their beaches. The San Juan del Sur Bay beach has a dazzling horseshoe shape of muted beige soft sand that is overlooked by a statue of Jesus perched north of the bay. The waters around here are calm and very rarely get large enough to surf, making this an ideal beach for young families. For surfers, there’s the Playa Maderas a little further along.
There are plenty of fine eateries from which you can enjoy a most delightful sunset. And after sun down, there’s a fun vibe of a busy nightlife to enjoy.
Isla Espiritu Santo, Sea of Cortez, Baja California
Oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called Mexico’s Sea of Cortez “the world’s greatest aquarium” because of its unique and rich ecosystem. To get up close and personal with nature, base yourself in La Paz. All the islands are UNESCO as World Heritage Biospheres.
Uninhabited Espiritu Santo, absurdly beautiful, is the jewel in the crown: the sea is so turquoise it’s like swimming in a bottle of Curaçao. Once ashore you’ll find wedding-cake white sands, nail-varnish pink volcanic rocks, clouds of yellow butterflies and strange 300-year old boojum trees.
At Los Islotes, you can snorkel with friendly sea-lions. There are many migratory species such as humpback whales, manta rays and leatherback turtles.
Known as the Paradise of the South, Kovalam is arguably the best beach. This coconut-forested, crescent-shaped beach is full of character, with the Vizhinjam mosque at the northerly end, brightly-painted boats in the middle, and Ayurvedic massage centres where you can indulge in a rejuvenating herbal, body-toning massage or other holistic. The equivalent of 30p buys you a scrummy curry served on a leaf.
White Island, Camiguin
Small, pear-shaped and known as the Island Born, Camiguin is home to the spectacular White Island beach a Tippex-white sandbar with views of two volcanoes Mt Hibok-Hibok and Mt Vulcan. Close by the turquoise Bohol Sea hides an unusual treasure – the Sunken Cemetery lying 20 feet underwater following a volcanic eruption. The island has old ancestral homes and churches.
Praia de Lopes Mendes, Ilha Grande, Brazil
Just three hours south of Rio de Janiero, Ilha Grande is a small island home to the jaw-achingly beautiful Praia de Lopes Mendes. To get to the beach is quite an undertaking, but well worth the effort – you have to hike through Atlantic forests thick with hummingbirds, butterflies, tropical flowers and waterfalls with Pygmy and Holy monkeys running everywhere. With sand as white and as soft as flour, the beach of Lopes Mendes is irresistible. The island was discovered but today preservation is the word with roads only existing in the island’s main village.
Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands
Whether you arrive by sea-plane or boat, Whitehaven Beach has oh-so-white sands, rainforest and crystalline waters. It’s on a tiny wild island part of the 1,250-mile long Great Barrier Reef. The sand is 99.89% pure quartz and you can swim with 1,500 types of multi-coloured fish and observe humpback whales on their annual migration. Seventy-three other islands await discovery some deserted and ideal for a very intimate and secluded day in the sun.
You can camp on some islands but always remember the advice of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority: “take with you photos and memories, and leave behind only bubbles”. Base yourself on the mainland at Airlie Beach Organic meals. They sell original art and crafts made by local Ngaro and Gia people.